Diego's Dilemma

Parte Ocho

Nancy J. Smith

That night as Victoria slept, visions of faces drifted through her mind. But that was all that they were, just faces with no names. The only ones who she knew for sure, were Don Diego and his father, Alejandro de la Vega, Felipe and that nice cook Maria. Oh yes, and of course that masked man, Zorro. Zorro!

For some reason, there was something about Diego that reminded her of Zorro. Even as she slept, Diego and Zorro kept drifting in and out of her dreams. Two other men kept drifting in and out as well. The two men who had held her hostage. Who were these men? And why had they tied her up in that cave?

All night long Victoria tossed and turned. Fighting her way through an endless sea of faces with no names. Deep in the dark recesses of her mind she suddenly saw a young woman being marched out by soldiers, tied to a post, and blindfolded. As the young woman struggled to free herself, the soldiers opened fire on the young woman, and she slid to the ground in a pool of blood. Victoria saw a young girl screaming and crying as she ran over to the young woman and cried. Who was this young woman? And who was that young girl? She saw two young boys, and a man running to her, untying the young woman, and carrying her away.

Soon a dark cloud fell over her dream. Victoria shook her head and suddenly sat up in bed. She could feel her heart pounding. She ran her fingers through her hair, as she pushed it from her face. Tears came to her eyes, as she thought of that young woman being shot. An overwhelming sadness flowed through her as her tears turned into sobs.

Diego seemed to be feeling restless as well. The guilt he was feeling over Victoria's amnesia was causing him anxieties and doubts. He felt responsible for Victoria getting kidnapped and having amnesia. He wished he hadn't challenged Vargas in the tavern, yet he couldn't just sit there and let Vargas treat Victoria the way he did. If only he hadn't lost his temper! He sighed and climbed out of bed. He put his robe on and decided to go to the cave. He could always sort things out better there.

As he walked down the hallway, he heard Victoria crying. Normally he would never dream of going into a lady's bedroom at night, but her sorrow was more than he could bear. He slowly opened the door, and stood in the doorway and saw her with her face in her hands sobbing. He didn't care. She needed someone to hold her and tell her everything was all right. He walked over and sat on the side of her bed, and put his arms around her and held her in his arms.

"It's all right, Victoria. I'm here. No one is going to hurt you!" he said softly. He felt her melt in his arms as he held her, and gently rocked her as he had done Felipe, whenever he had been plagued with nightmares.

Her sobbing finally subsided as she released a weary sigh and gently broke from his tender embrace. Diego reached in the pocket of his robe and handed her his soft white linen handkerchief. She wiped her eyes and nose, then looked at him somewhat disconcerted.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you." she remarked saddly.

Diego shook his head. "You didn't disturb me. I was having trouble sleeping anyway." he said with a slight smile. He looked at her with concern.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

Victoria's eyes slightly widened. That soft voice and those gentle caring eyes. She thought at first it was Zorro asking her that question, but it was Diego sitting on her bed. She slightly blinked and nodded.

"Yes, I'm all right...now. I was just having a bad dream." she replied. "Thank you, Diego." she said with a slight smile, as she blushed.

"Can I get you anything?" he asked amiably.

Victoria shook her head. "No thank you. I'll be all right."

Diego nodded. "Would you like Maria to stay with you, tonight?"

Victoria shook her head. "I don't want to be a bother."

Diego smiled and shook his head. "You could never be a bother, Victoria." He replied putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

Victoria gazed into his eyes, and smiled. 'Where have I heard that, before?' she thought.

Diego stood up then walked toward the door. He turned and looked at Victoria.

"I'll send Maria in. She can stay with you tonight." he remarked warmly.

Victoria nodded. "Thank you again, Diego." She replied amiably.

Diego smiled. "You're welcome. Get some rest, and I'll send Maria to your room." He stated. He turned and walked out.

For some reason, she felt herself wanting to ask Diego, to stay in her room. There was something about him, that she knew she could trust. She thought about him holding her in his arms as she cried, and how safe she felt. She wrapped her arms around herself and sighed. 'If only I could remember!'

Soon Maria came into her room. Victoria smiled and lay back on her pillow. She looked at the handkerchief that Diego had given her, then put it under her pillow. She pulled the covers up around her and closed her eyes. Maria too, found a restful spot on the large soft cushioned couch in Victoria's room. She covered herself with the soft quilt that was draped over the couch and quickly fell asleep.

The next morning Victoria opened her eyes, and gazed about the bedroom. There was something familiar about this room, but she still couldn't remember what it was. 'Have I stayed here, before?' she thought. She slightly yawned, stretched out her arms, then slowly sat up. She was still experiencing some dizziness, which forced her to remain in bed. She glanced over at the couch, where Maria had slept last night. It was empty, and the quilt was neatly folded and draped over the back. She was glad Diego had asked Maria to stay with her last night, after that nightmare she had. It seemed to leave her with an unsettling feeling as well as a sadness in her heart. She wondered who those people were. As she reflected on her dream, her reverie was quickly interrupted as she heard someone knocking on her door.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"It's Maria, Señorita." replied Maria.

"Come in." said Victoria.

Maria walked in carrying a bed tray with some very delicious food on it.

"Good morning, Señorita. I have your breakfast ready." she smiled.

Victoria quickly straightened her covers, then Maria set the tray across her lap.

"Muchas gracias, Maria." Victoria smiled. "By the way, you can call me, Victoria. Diego told me that was who I was last night." She added.

Maria nodded and smiled. "De nada. Yes, I know who you are Señorita Escalante." she remarked.

Victoria took a drink of her juice, then dabbed her mouth on the white linen napkin.

"How do you know who I am?" she asked.

Maria pulled up a chair, sat down, then looked at Victoria.

"You are a friend of the de la Vegas, and have been for quite some time." she replied earnestly.

Victoria looked at Maria thoughtfully.

"Really?" she asked.

Maria nodded and smiled.

"Yes. And they are friends of yours as well." she stated.

Victoria nodded and smiled. She looked at her breakfast then at Maria.

"This looks delicious, Maria. Gracias!" she said.

Maria smiled. "De nada. Well, enjoy your breakfast, Victoria. If you need anything, just let me know." she replied.

Victoria nodded.

Maria rose from her chair, then left Victoria alone to enjoy her breakfast.

It as indeed a delicious breakfast. Toast made from freshly baked bread, jam, butter, eggs, fresh orange juice, tea, cream, sugar, and two strips of bacon. Victoria couldn't remember ever having such a feast. Or being served breakfast in bed, for that matter. If the de la Vegas were really friends of hers, then they were indeed exceptional friends at that.

As she finished her breakfast, and drank her tea, she glanced up as she heard another knock at her door.

"Come in." she said.

Diego walked in and looked at her and smiled.

"buenos días, Victoria. How are you feeling this morning?" he said warmly, as he sat down in the chair, where Maria had sat.

Victoria dabbed her mouth, then smiled.

"buenos días, Diego. I'm feeling a little better. I'm still having dizzy spells though. I wish they would go away." She replied ruefully.

Diego looked at her thoughtfully. "Don't worry, they will. Doctor Hernandez said that you suffered a concussion. That's why you keep having those dizzy spells. I think after another day of bed rest, you'll be able to get up and move about." He stated resolutely.

Victoria sighed. "I'm ready to get out of bed now! However, after this wonderful breakfast, and being served breakfast in bed, I may never want to get out." she chuckled.

Diego gazed at her smiled. He always thought she had the prettiest smile. He even loved the way her eyes sparkled when she laughed.

"Well, we'll just have to do something about that, won't we." he quipped.

Victoria smiled and slightly blushed. Her smiled quickly faded as she gave Diego a serious look.

"Diego, who am I?" she asked quite suddenly.

Diego's smile faded as well, as he returned her look.

"You mean besides Victoria Escalante?" he asked.

Victoria nodded. "Maria said that you and your father were friends of mine, and I was a friend of you and your father's as well. She said that we've been friends for a long time. Have we really?" she asked earnestly.

Diego wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful, charming woman in all of California, and how much he really loved her. But he knew that it was more important for her to reclaim her own past, before she could reclaim her past with him. Maybe in time, he hoped that she would remember. Diego rose from the chair and looked at her breakfast tray.

"Are you finished?" he asked.

Victoria nodded.

He picked up her breakfast tray and set it on a table near the bed, then returned to his chair and sat down.

"Are you comfortable?" he asked.

Victoria nodded. "Yes, thank you." She replied.

Diego looked at her thoughtfully as he leaned back in his chair.

"Maria is right. We have been friends for a long time. We've known you and your family ever since you were a little girl." He stated.

Victoria looked at him in amazement. "We've been friends for that long?"

Diego nodded. "As far back as I can remember." He replied reflectively.

Victoria looked at him earnestly.

"Diego, what about my parents? Do I have any brothers or sisters?" she asked.

Diego looked at her compassionately and sighed. How could he tell her, that she was an orphan, knowing that it would devastate her, to know that her parents were dead. He knew the sadness he felt when his own mother died. Yet, loosing both parents may be more than she could bear.

"Victoria, maybe we should wait until later, to discuss this." He remarked anxiously.

Victoria shook her head, and looked at him intently. "Tell me now, Diego. Please, I have to know who I am! Tell me the truth!" she implored.

Diego nodded and released an anxious sigh. Despite her amnesia, it was obvious that her stubbornness had not diminished. Yet he could feel the desperation her voice, as she reached out to him asking for help.

"You're right, Victoria. You need to know the truth." He replied. "When you and your brothers, Francisco and Ramon were little, your mother and father ran a tavern in the pueblo..." he began.

Victoria's eyes widened. "I have two brothers?" she asked.

Diego nodded. "They live in Venezuela." He replied.

Victoria nodded. "Where are my parents?" she asked.

Diego sighed. "There was a revolution and your mother was shot by a firing squad for aiding a wounded revolutionary. Your father and brothers swore revenge, and went off to join the rebel army. You were just a young girl at the time." He stated sadly.

Victoria felt the tears come to her eyes as she suddenly remembered her dream.

"Diego, that was my mother I dreamed about last night. She was the one in my dream who was killed by the soldiers." she cried.

Diego nodded. He walked over to Victoria and put his arms around her and held her as she cried. He reached in his pocket and handed her his handkerchief.

"What about my father?" she asked tearfully.

"He was captured during the revolution for being an enemy of the state, and sent to prison at Devil's Fortress, a prison for political prisoners, as well as lawbreakers. You and your brothers thought he was dead, until you received a letter stating that he was still alive a Devil's fortress. I went there to try to rescue him, and later you and your brother Ramon rode there as well. Unfortunately, your father died, before you and Ramon could bring him home alive. You were already running the tavern by then." he stated.

She gently broke from his embrace.

"I run a tavern?" she asked with a surprised look on her face.

Diego nodded. "You were only fourteen or fifteen, when your mother was killed, and your father was at Devil's Fortress. You took over the tavern and started running it. Francisco joined the army and Ramon is still in Venezuela. You're a very independent business woman, Victoria." he smiled.

Victoria looked at Diego and sighed. "I wish my parents were still alive so that they could see how independent, I've become." She stated sadly.

"So do I." Replied Diego, sympathetically as he gave her a warm hug.

"What about your mother, Diego? Where is she?" Victoria asked curiously.

Diego released Victoria from his embrace, and looked at her sadly.

"She died when I was very young. Younger than you were, when your mother died." he replied.

Victoria looked at him sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Diego. You must miss her terribly." She said.

Diego nodded. "Yes, I do. But I'll always remember her in my heart. She is with us in spirit, as well." he replied wistfully.

Victoria nodded. "I'm sure my mother and father are with me in spirit, as well as in my heart too." she remarked.

Diego nodded and smiled. "I'm sure they are too."

Victoria looked at Diego curiously.

"Diego, you said that you've known me for a long time. When did we first meet?" she asked.

Diego smiled as he reflected upon their childhood years.

"I've known you all my life, Victoria. We grew up together. My parents and your parents were very good friends. We used to play together as children. We've always been close...friends." He replied. For now he just wanted her to know that he was her friend. Maybe the rest would come later.

Victoria reached over and touched his hand and smiled.

"Thank you for telling me all this, Diego. Already, I feel like I'm getting part of my life back. Maybe one day, I'll remember everything. Thank you for always being my friend." She replied, warmly.

Diego looked into her eyes and smiled.

"You're welcome." he replied. He took her hand, and pressed a light kiss to the back, and smiled.

"I think you've had enough 'remembering' for now. You need to get your rest. Maybe if you're feeling up to it, I'll show you around the hacienda this afternoon." he stated.

Victoria nodded and slightly blushed. "I'd like that. Thank you." She replied.

Diego rose from the bed, then picked up the tray and walked over the door. He turned and looked at her.

"Get some rest, and I'll see you this afternoon." he stated.

Victoria nodded and smiled.

He turned and walked out.

As Victoria lay on her pillow, she glanced at her hand where Diego had kissed it. Somehow she had a feeling that they were more than just friends. As she closed her eyes, Diego and Zorro, kept drifting through her mind. What was it about Diego, that reminded her of Zorro? She had a feeling that she would eventually find out.

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